Behind the scenes of the University of Alberta’s undergraduate nursing program

A look at the talented team keeping the undergraduate program in Canada’s No. 1 Faculty of Nursing running smoothly

Every year, the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing serves hundreds of undergraduate students. You might be aware this is the No. 1-ranked nursing school in Canada, graduating hundreds of nursing professionals every year. But what you may not realize is the level of administrative wizardry going on behind the scenes to support this globally recognized program.

Our entire undergraduate nursing program is administered by a very small team led by Katie Burgess, director of undergraduate student services and operations. Eight full-time and one part-time staff member share the job of handling in-person, email and telephone inquiries about the undergraduate program, managing admission records, scheduling and assistance for nursing students enrolled in the program and the coordination of learner health and safety documents, including immunization requirements, which have become more complex over time. Staff also support program instructors and provide administrative support to Dr. Beverley Temple, the associate dean of undergraduate programs in the faculty. If this seems like a lot of work for eight-and-a-half people, it is. ”Operationalizing nursing programs is complicated and intricate,” Temple points out.

After the undergraduate nursing program was approved by the university’s Board of Governors in 1923, only four students were admitted the following year. Today, there are approximately 1,400 undergraduate nursing students studying in partnership across five locations in Alberta: the U of A North Campus in Edmonton, the bilingual program out of Campus Saint-Jean (only Year 1 classes are primarily taken at CSJ), and collaborative programs, Northwestern Polytechnic in Grande Prairie, Red Deer Polytechnic and Keyano College in Fort McMurray. Thanks to the program’s top ranking in Canada (and ninth in the world), the number of applications submitted annually surpasses the number of spaces available. Last year, that number increased by 20 per cent.

Throughout this most recent program growth, the administration team — which has always been lean — has faced a combination of budget cuts, centralization and the COVID-19 pandemic, which have all made their work especially challenging. In the last year alone the undergraduate office has experienced changes in leadership and to existing positions, implemented a new curriculum, switched to hybrid program delivery, undertaken a document records and retention project and relocated offices to a much smaller work space adjacent to construction of the new health sciences library. “That's a lot to be proud of — going through all of this and still helping students get through,” says Burgess. Temple agrees. “Katie and her team do that tremendously well in terms of quickly identifying what the issues are,” she says.

And this is all in addition to day-to-day operations and managing and supporting students. “They've got their ear to the ground in terms of what student interests and needs are and most interact directly with students,” says Linda Youell, the faculty’s director of undergraduate programs. Temple agrees, adding, “They have a great knowledge of the function of the university and available supports and how to access them. Those relationships with others like the registrar's office, student support services and various wellness activities they have are so valuable. That kind of knowledge is great because it supports the rest of us.” She cites the new progressive orientation as an excellent example of the team’s ability to adapt and make improvements. “They really deliver,” Youell says. 

“The team comes back to work every day and carries on, and works from home when they need to, and that’s not easy for everyone,” says Temple. “I’d like to say, ‘Your work is noticed and appreciated, even though we may not say it very often. Thank you!’” 

The Faculty of Nursing’s undergraduate team includes:

Megha Jose, Academic Advisor I

Alice Lau, Academic Advisor II

Joni Larsen, Academic Advisor II

Corrine Dickau, Academic Advisor II

Sandra Gibson, Student Services Assistant (Health & Safety)

Audrey Whitehead, Student Services Assistant 

Janeen Jorden, Administrative Assistant

Daniel Jin, Nursing Scheduling Coordinator 

Katie Burgess, Director of Undergraduate Student Services and Operations

The University of Alberta is the top institution in Canada for nursing and ranked ninth worldwide according to the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject. Our world-leading Faculty lead cutting-edge work that's changing the face of global health.  Learn more: